Crime in the California State Assembly

State Senator Leland Yee

I don’t have the heart to write this.

For years, Sen. Leland Yee has been trying to convince the California State legislature to reform JLWOP– Juvenile Life Without Parole, that is, minors being sentenced to remain behind bars till they die. Yee is not only a State Senator, but also a child psychologist who knows very well that the judgment of a teenager is very different from the judgment of an adult.

This year, a much watered-down version of The Fair Sentencing for Youth Act passed the Senate, making it possible, under some limited circumstances, for a prisoner who’d committed the offense while a minor to go to court and seek to have the sentence changed to 25-to-life. That’s still a life sentence, but offers a glimmer of hope –a parole hearing to be held after serving at least 25 years. Few prisoners would qualify for the hearing. The California Board of Prison Terms routinely denies parole anyway or tells prisoners to return for another hearing in ten years or more. Senator Yee’s bill would not have opened the floodgates releasing violent offenders back into the community.

Last week, his bill failed to pass the Assembly.

We are all shamed, but it’s time to call out the people who belong on the roll call of shame, the Assembly members who so fear being called soft on crime that they couldn’t bring themselves to do the right and rational thing.

Their names: Anthony Adams, Joel Anderson, Juan Arambula, Bill Berryhill, Tom Berryhill, Marty Block, Joan Buchanan, Anna M. Caballero, Charles Calderon, Connie Conway, Paul Cook, Chuck DeVore, Nathan Fletcher, Jean Fuller, Ted Gaines, Martin Garrick, Danny Gilmore, Curt Hagman, Diane Harkey, Alyson Huber, Kevin Jeffries, Steve Knight, Ted Lieu, Dan Logue, Fiona Ma, Jeff Miller, Brian Nestande, Roger Niello, Jim Nielsen, Chris Norby, Anthony Portantino, Jim Silva, Cameron Smyth, Jose Solorio, Audra Strickland, Norma Torres, Van Tran, Michael Villines

The bill might have passed if other Assembly members had shown up and taken a stand and voted for it: Wesley Chesbro, Hector De La Torre, Cathleen Galgiani, Tony Mendoza, Pedro Nava, V. Manuel Perez

As parole board commissioners like to say in their routine boilerplate denials, these people “lack insight and express no remorse.”

Diane Lefer

Diane Lefer’s new book, The Blessing Next to the Wound, has just been published. Co-authored with Hector Aristizábal, it is a true story of surviving torture and civil war and seeking change (including change in how we treat our youth) through action.

Published by the LA Progressive on August 30, 2010
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About Diane Lefer

Diane Lefer's books include The Blessing Next to the Wound: A Story of Art, Activism, and Transformation, co-authored with Colombian exile and torture survivor Hector Aristizábal; the crime novel Nobody Wakes Up Pretty, described by Edgar Award winner Domenic Stansberry as "sifting the ashes of America's endless class warfare" and, most recently, her historical novel The Fiery Alphabet, which tells a woman's adventurous life-story against the backdrop of the 18th-century tension between Enlightenment values and religious faith.
thanks.